PABST BOY STUNNA WINNERS

PABST
PABST BOY STUNNA by Lindz McLeod
Dark liquid throttles past
his tongue; sweet carbon roars,
wrapped in black and white silk,
move into fifth gear.
Picking up speed inside a
crushed tin cage. Boy,
you sure do know how to dress-
wide grey tie like a safety ribbon,
topped by bewildered brows
coagulating into joy.

 

Method of Choice by Kyla Houbolt

Worked in a factory in South Baltimore when I was about 22.  Me and my girlfriend on our days off used to walk to the corner bar, sit around drinking Rolling Rocks and eating barbecue potato chips. Baltimore was a beer town. Lots of neighborhood bars opened at 6 am, guys would sit at the bar, have a few to take the edge off the day before their shifts.

Nobody we knew would drink Pabst though. It tasted like sour piss with sugar in it, watered down. Any bar that had Pabst on draft (and surprisingly there were a few) we’d buy a bottle of something instead. But much later I did find one good use for it.

I was living in San Francisco, and one year there was lots of rain after a drought. I was trying to garden. The snails were a terror that year; the sudden abundance of water must have made them overbreed. I watched dozens of them actually race toward the garden when daylight struck. Snails don’t much like tomato plants but that year they would eat anything. 

If you don’t want to use poison, the best way to control snails is to set traps. Beer traps. Pabst was real good for that. Cheap, and nobody wanted to drink it so a six pack could sit around longer than a day. Fill little cups with beer, leave them out for the snails to drown in. Which they did, en masse. Only problem with that method was occasionally forgetting the location of one of the traps. Leave a bunch of dead snails in a beer pool for too long and the odor will almost make you pass out. But it was Pabst, so you never felt like you were wasting good beer by letting all those snails rot in it. And there would always be plenty of the six pack left, to fill more traps with. Because nobody was going to drink that stuff. As for the snails, they died happy. Pabst was just fine with them.

Lindz McLeod is a writer and poet from Edinburgh, Scotland. She enjoys archery and picnicking in the moral grey area.

Kyla Houbolt’s debut micro chapbook, Dawn’s Fool, is available from IceFloe Press: https://icefloepress.net/kyla-houbolts-dawns-fool-a-microchap/ . Most of her published work can be accessed on her Linktree: https://linktr.ee/luaz_poet and she is on Twitter @luaz_poet.

“Trying Out New Author Bios” By KKURRTT

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KKUURRTT went to a college and a university.

KKUURRTT is a writer with few accomplishments worth mentioning.

KKUURRTT has been published here and there, but do you really even care where? Like does it actually matter or is this just the game we’re supposed to play to make it in the literary industry. If I don’t participate in the game am I relieving myself of the tension, or just exacerbating the whole situation? Is this bio in fact a bio? And that, in and of itself, makes things much worse?

KKUURRTT is currently trying out new author bios.

You might be able to find KKUURRTT at next year’s AWP.

Sent from KKUURRTTs iPhone.

KKUURRTT is too humble to write about himself in the third person.

KKUURRTT wrote for his sketch comedy troupe in college and a music blog in his twenties.  Somewhere in between he wrote a feature length movie that was released on DVD and select streaming services. It is now time for him to get a new life. Tick tock.

KKUURRTT was 6’5” and a friend to all birds. He is currently buried in an undisclosed cemetery where he doesn’t do anything but slowly rot. One day, soon, he won’t even exist as a distant memory, but merely a chiseled etching on stone. He can’t wait for that day either.

KKUURRTT can be found on twitter at @wwwkurtcom.

“Allergic To” By KKURRRTT

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allergies and nose drugs don’t work super well together / doing ketamine in my friend’s apartment but they have a cat and I’m also snorting cat hair right up the old ding dong left right take me out back behind the shed and shoot in me in the back of the head / because its like are they even working am i even working? / why are drugs but allergies even and now i’ve got this psychedelic head cold or cloud hanging over my head and I’ve got to blow my nose but it’s all stuffed up and it’s like maybe I shouldn’t have taken drugs in a house where I’m allergic to a cat / normal people don’t get themselves in this situation do they? / but drugs are for taking so what does it matter if the place they are taken isn’t pristine perfect ideal conditions / this is just one life but which we live it / and now my nose is stuffed and my head is weird and this was all part of the plan so what am I even complaining about? / like I signed up for three months of a subscription service for good old stuffhead nose powder and I might as well do it exactly where it’s going to have the worst possible sensation for the passageways that run in and around and behind the skin of my face / blow it all out in a tissue and it feels really good for a second like really good like you didn’t blow all of the drugs out but you did blow all the bad stuff out and you’re clear minded for a fraction of a second and you remember how to do your taxes or at least that they’re due next week and you haven’t done them yet and then it’s all stuffed up again / clogged drain / pulling out a strand of hair so long that by the end it’s completely gray, and not just like a slight gray but a full and healthy not salt and pepper GRAY and eventually it keeps going and comes out as bone-chillingly stark white / snotty child boogies hanging off his face like somebody help him / he’s at the park and oh god doesn’t anybody have a tissue for that boy? / this is what I feel like right now / I’m this boy dripping non stop snot from his nose and it wont stop no matter how many tissues we give him or me / they dont have enough tissues they dont make enough tissues we need to turn factories into tissue making factories because this kids fucking nose is so runny it just wont stop not matter how many tissues we hand him and he blows and it keeps going / should we develop a plug for nostrils because this country is going into an economic depression just making booger paper for this boys nose? / oh please thank you for your service I know we didn’t solve anything but at least we addressed the issue / was it worth it, you ask? on the other end of the short high / yeah sure / snort a little kitten dander with a bit of kitamine and it’s like whatever it takes to get you out of your mind, right? / some people sniff jenkem so it’s like I can take a little bit of pollen in my powders, it’s all part of the process or the problem / Look it was an accident / I didn’t think about it alright? / I’m still gonna do it next time / Keep blowing my nose til morning.

KKUURRTT is glad you read his thing. He can be found on twitter at @wwwkurtcom

 

“That Firecracker Summer” By Mike Lee

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That Firecracker Summer

By Mike Lee

“Ouch. Damn. Damn. Damn!” Sarah muttered, knocking her water jug against her thigh, as she walked toward the Farm and Market road that led to the town named for her mama’s family.

The grass blades cut into her bare ankles. Sarah wore half-broken flip-flops; borne from teenage hubris and indefatigable obstinacy. This was of no surprise: she is the one and only from a family where the principal rule was do as much as you can get away with. Getting by and over it while picking up what falls off from trucks, with drug store sunglasses and cheap makeup easy game when the cashier is distracted, the topper moments later getting extra cash at checkout with the magic of using fast talk, slicked with sweetness and distracting sparkling gray eyes expressing words in honeysuckle bullshit artist hailing from dirt road 

“Ma’am, I’m sorry, but I gave you a ten.”

“Are you sure, sweetheart?” The cashier was already self-questioning her actions, her wedding band hand already hesitating over the open drawer.

“Yes ma’am…. It’s five, six, seven, and ten. I think you are a little short. Yes, ma’am, I gave you a ten.”

Sarah lowered her forehead to maximize sincerity. Not using eye shadow was a nice touch: this made Sarah look younger and more acceptable to born-again Christians obsessed about being so good that getting into their heaven was greased on the rails of their gullibility.

Always works—until it doesn’t. In this little town doing the chump change shakedown you can only do once, because you know how the country ladies love to talk.

Sarah reached the hillock and clambered over the wire fence by the two-lane asphalt ribbon cutting toward the town. Summers with grandparents were at once an agony and escape from bullshit. It wasn’t as if she was missing anything. Her life at home was too controlled to do anything beyond early curfews and vetted friends. Daddy, dope paranoid and cop shy saw trouble in everyone.

So it was mornings with flapjacks and bacon on the griddle. Afterward, wanderings across the grassy fields with cedars and mesquite spit by the devil’s angels cut across by gravel tracks and trails, and the two-lane blacktop that began at Dripping Springs, with a junction with the main Hill Country route out of Austin at the town square, before terminating in Bourne. When she was a child, Sarah was on that road late at night huddled under the blanket in the back seat staring at the night sky driving back from picnics and extended family get-togethers.

Sometimes Sarah brought a book to read, and always she carried her teddy. This summer, though the bear was back at home, placed on her bed pillow directly below the poster of Robert Plant. She felt she was too old to bring it to her grandparents this time around.

Her parents were old hippies, and the music on the old Realistic cassette deck reflected that. Dylan, Janis, The Weight by The Band.

Ah, and Pure Prairie League. That song. Amie, whatcha wanna do? It evoked that day when Sarah waited out front of the school waiting for the boy she wanted.

Yes, Sarah standing there waiting for that boy, all the while soaking in the rain of her favorite dream. Yeah, that is what this was like, and remained so.

The heat turned Sarah pink before the sun burned her dark, and she walked along the road on the edge of the shoulder because the hot asphalt—even in late morning—would melt the soles of her flip flops.

She passed the tire yard, and the old stone-built gas station turned into an antique store that no one seemed to stop by to shop. Corrugated tin garages selling farm equipment and aging pickups, no beer joints because this is a dry county, no alcohol available except at the clubs Sarah was too young to be allowed to enter.

But the Baptists and the Seventh Days tolerated cigarettes, so Sarah got her smokes at the convenience store, lighting one as she walked toward the town square.

The paperback bookstore and the café beside it were Sarah’s haunts. The bookstore didn’t open until noon, so Sarah had an hour to sit in the shade outside, smoking cigarettes and thinking of getting a fresh stack of science fiction. Currently she was into Le Guin. 

She drank her coffee, the queen of the concrete bench when Bobby arrived. He pulled up in his black top, cherry red Buick Skylark. While Bobby wasn’t the boy back in Austin, he offered freedom from flapjacks, had weed and did stuff she liked well.

She thought he’ll do as he leaned for a sloppy kiss.

Amie, whatcha wanna do. She thought about the boy she had waited for. But—black top, cherry red.

“Hey baby, the firecracker stand just opened up in Blanco. I want to pick up some Black Cats before they run out,” Bobby said.

“No M-80s, please,” said Sarah. “They scare the fuck out of me.”

“They’re illegal,” he said. “They ain’t gonna have them.”

Sarah did not believe him, but watch can she do. Behind her she heard the bookstore door unlock.

She flipped her cigarette spinning to the pavement.

“C’mon,” Sarah said, nudging Bobby. “There’s a book I want to buy. Then, we can go get the firecrackers.”

“Boom,” Bobby said, spreading her fingers in front of his face and stretched his arms upward toward the sky.

With a shudder, Sarah had a premonition. But she forgot about it until she remembered later, for forever.

Boom.

“Pale Cobalt Blue” by A.S Coomer

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Nethers put in the lowest bid, by far, so he got the job of repainting the Philpot water tower. He’d overheard two county engineers talking about the project at Hattie’s Tavern and it felt too preordained not to be done. He’d spray-painted a dick on it some twenty years earlier and here then was an opportunity to not only work his idle hands but make amends for a previous transgression. 

He remembered stealing warm beer from his father’s boat then the long rickety ladder up to the top of the water tower, wrung after wrung of dissolving paint under his sweaty hands, dusk setting on quicker all the time. On top, he drank two of the beers as fast as he could then edged himself down the tank to the point where he just knew he’d slide off if he scooted another inch. Pinpricks of needles blossomed on the bottoms of his feet as he worked. He drew the five-foot dick slowly, carefully. He scrambled back up to the top of the tower then popped the tab of another warm Stroh, studying the cartoonish penis which glistened, still wet under the new moon. 

He’d never gotten caught for the dick. Nethers finished high school, by the skin of his teeth, then moved away immediately, first: a four-year stint in Louisville, then: eight in Nashville, the rest: wandering place to place always looking but never finding. He got word of his father’s passing at a truck stop in Tucson and rushed home to spend three years in a single February at the poorly insulated house, the one in which he was raised, in Philpot, settling his father’s affairs. His father left him the house and since Nethers didn’t have any place better to go he moved back home. 

Nethers decided he was going to hand-paint the water tower. He’d gotten a rock-climbing harness and set of rappelling ropes off Craigslist. He knew it’d take longer than spraying but he’d seen a video on the internet that got him started thinking about pollution and his carbon footprint; it’d showed oil covered chicklets and baby turtles. Nethers imagined the sun shining down on each of his languid brushstrokes cleansing the murky slate of his heart. He’d taken for so long he’d forgotten the healing power of giving. After snorting the Xanax, Nethers felt more comfortable with his place in things. He was making amends. 

Nethers cringed and shook when they lowered his father’s casket into the ground thinking of the growing population and all the space cemeteries wasted and the fact he couldn’t remember the last time he’d seen his father, not entirely. They’d both been drunk, Nethers to the dripping inkiness of another blackout, his father probably not far off his own self. Nethers thought they’d embraced, a rare show of physical affection, but wasn’t sure. 

His hands were shaking. Though he acknowledged his boredom with life, had wondered why he kept on living when he had nothing to hope for, still he was terrified of falling from the water tower. He popped a Klonopin, washed it down with a sip of warm Stroh he’d found in the cooler of his father’s john-boat, then adjusted the harness. He made sure the ropes were in order then took each tentative step backwards slowly, his heart hammering around in his chest. He leaned forward in the harness and realized he had not thought things through. He was going to have to affix the can of paint and paintbrush to his overalls because he needed the use of his hands for repelling. He tried this, then that, finally deciding to put the can of paint inside the front of his overalls, the paint brush would be carried in his teeth. Before he started, Nethers smoked half a joint just enjoying the view and trying not to think about how high up he was.

On the way down for his initial coat of pale cobalt blue, his legs became entangled, the can of paint shifted inside his overalls, and he nearly cried out in absolute terror. Nethers regained control of himself and got the first brush strokes of the job on there. He’d painted something like a tenth of the water tank’s surface when the first can of paint ran dry. He pulled himself up, decided to smoke the other half of the joint before starting back again.

Nethers woke twisted in the harness. The moon had long been in the sky. He couldn’t feel his legs; he tried to move them but couldn’t get a response from either leg. Panic gripped him, yanking him out of his benzo haze. 

Nethers looked down; he couldn’t help it, and for a moment he felt held in place only by some cosmic accident. He’d nearly slipped free from the harness; it was slung almost off his thin hips. He punched his left thigh but felt nothing. 

He yelled but no one came to his aid ‘til the morning.

Nethers spent a few weeks in residential treatment then, long story short, he left AMA. He went back to his father’s frigid house, his now, the wheelchair making coming and going a problem. Nethers waited for the use of his legs to return, the doctors unsure why it hadn’t already happened. He spent his afternoons writing, wheeling himself onto the little back patio for smoke breaks, where he could see the progress of the painting of the Philpot water tower. 

At the base of the tower, Nethers looked up at the scaffolding, afternoon sunshine hitting the huge droplets of paint that hung and dripped. There was a robin’s nest at the foot of an oak, knocked down by the powerful paint-sprayers the Dressel brothers used. Three of the eggs had cracked but one appeared unbroken. Nethers wheeled himself closer, reached down and plucked the egg from the nest. He turned it over and saw that it’d been half-sprayed pale cobalt blue.

 

A.S. Coomer is a writer and musician. Books include MemorabiliaThe FetishistsShining the Light, & otherswww.ascoomer.com 

“I Just Don’t Get the Hype Over the New Star Wars Movie” By Madison McSweeney

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The last half hour has been nothing but flashing lights, neon lines and retro zings of defanged future bombs and swishing lightsabers. The villain, redeemed but not forgiven, flees to the mountains where his former mentor once hid. His troops, however, fight on. 

The alien desert has been ravaged by shelling; through the dust that pervades the atmosphere, we can just barely see the outlines of airships swirling in combat. On the ground, the expendable villains and indispensable heroes fight hand to hand. Limbs are separated from bodies in kaleidoscopic bursts. 

Former Stormtrooper Finn cowers before one of his former colleagues, before Poe swoops in to blow the soldier’s head off with a blaster. The men embrace. Meanwhile, the film’s female lead – Rey – is fleeing the battle. Unbeknownst to her comrades in arms, she’s just been entrusted with her most vital mission yet. She holds the fate of generations inside her.

Seconds before she can reach the escape pod, an explosion rattles the blasted earth, and she hears the ominous whirring of an Empire shuttle. Tears in her eyes, she scuttles underneath the shattered wreck of the pod. The sky above her is choked with dust.

Our heroine cowers as the enemy ship passes over her, a slender hand resting protectively on her stomach.

Cut to black.

The picture fades back in, not the crisp neon cinematography of a 21st century Star Wars movie but the slightly faded blur of a dated period drama, like one of the Historica Minutes that the government of Canada makes. A balding man with curly white hair is sitting at a heavy oak desk, writing with a quill pen. Based on the last scenes before the time jump, he’s some sort of great grandchild of Rey. He looks familiar. 

The theatre falls into reverent silence as the man on the screen bends over his notes, his hands at work but his mind elsewhere, dreaming of doing great things, if he has not done them already. Railroads. Unity. New beginnings and new nations. 

He doesn’t look up before the screen once again falls dark. As the credits roll, I look around to see how everyone else is reacting. There’s not a dry eye in the house.

I’m confused. 

At the risk of appearing ignorant, I lean closer to my movie companion. “I don’t get it – who’s he supposed to be?” My friend, a history buff as well as a Star Wars nerd, upbraids me for not recognizing Sir Wilfred Laurier, Canada’s seventh prime minister.

“That’s a strange and very Canadian-specific ending,” I say, gathering up my coat from the folded seat beside me. As we shuffle out of the aisle and begin to descend the stairs, a man in a cowboy hat going the opposite direction locks eyes with me. “Like, how are Americans reacting right now…?”

My friend is scandalized. “The man was Prime Minister for fifty years!” 

“Yes, I know,” I retort, although I’d forgotten that Laurier had served for that long. I haven’t brushed up on my Canadian prime ministers since middle school. “But I just don’t see what it has to do with the Star Wars ennealogy.” 

My friend looks at me like I’ve grown a third head. “How do you not get this? Rey embraced the light, and her descendants went on to greatness.” 

“But why Wilfred Laurier?” I cry. “In all the annals of history, why would a major international production decide to use Wilfred Laurier as a self-explanatory symbol of greatness? And are these movies even set in the same universe as us?”

My friend raises an eyebrow. “You just don’t get Star Wars, do you?”

I sigh. “I don’t know. I guess I’m just more of a Planet of the Apes girl.” 

“I bet you are!” calls the man in the cowboy hat, fighting his way the wrong way through the crowd to get a spot in the emptying theatre. I look his way, surprised, and he gives me a look that wouldn’t be out of place from a fading rocker at a backroad dive bar. But the crowd pulls me inexorably forward, and his leering eyes are off me. 

Meanwhile, my friend is trying to make me understand why this ending was so impactful. Laurier, he says, was a beloved side character in one of the crossover novels that came out in the 90s, into which the Canadian government pumped a lot of funding.  

Around us, people are still sniffling. They clearly see this as the love letter that it is. 

“Do you get it now?” my friend asks.

“I guess,” I say, looking back up into the theatre. The cowboy is leaning against the stair railing, his body silhouetted against the star-dotted screen, which is still blasting a subdued version of John Williams’ iconic score, snippets of the national anthem skillfully interwoven into the melody. The cowboy winks at me.

 

Madison McSweeney is a Canadian author and poet interested in the macabre and fantastic. She has published horror and fantasy stories in outlets like American Gothic, Cabinet of Curiosities, Unnerving Magazine and Zombie Punks F*ck Off. She blogs about music and genre fiction at www.madisonmcsweeney.com and tweets from @MMcSw13. 

“Owning Your Shit” by Tucker Lieberman

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Accountable, you are, on a summer day
While your clique picnics under a tree;
You’re discussing debacles with someone else,
But you’re not recollecting with me.

You are owning your shit with your new best friend!
You are owning it in therapy!
Likely you own it in solitary bliss
In a hammock alongside the sea.

You’re having a drink, or you’re quitting the drink,
And sobriety will set you free.
You are having a chat with your life coach,
But I don’t hear you chatting with me.

You’re finally living your true best life!
You’re the person you were born to be!
You’re sweeping your messes with piety.
You’re not owning your shit with me.

 

Tucker Lieberman created a blank journal called Flip the Finger at Despair. He is on a life quest to determine the proper forms of owning his shit. www.tuckerlieberman.com Twitter: @tuckerlieberman